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Samuel

Samuel

The prophet Samuel (ca. 1056-1004 B.C.) was the last judge of Israel and the first of the prophets after Moses. He inaugurated the monarchy by choosing and anointing Saul and David as kings of Israel.

Samuel was the son of Elkanah and Hannah, and he was born at Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. Brought to the Temple at Shiloh as a young child to serve God in fulfillment of a vow made by his mother, he succeeded Eli as the high priest and judge of Israel. Because the Philistines had destroyed Shiloh, Israel's religious center, Samuel returned to Ramah, making it the center of his activity.

Samuel made annual circuits through the cities of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, judging the people, exhorting them to stop worshiping idols, and using his influence to hold the tribes together. He seemed able to penetrate the future, and the people looked upon him as a prophet.

Israel at this time was subjected to Philistine domination, constant threats from the Ammonites, and disunion among its own tribes. The people lacked respect for Samuel's corrupt sons, Joel and Abijah, whom he appointed to judge Israel in his stead. The elders urged Samuel to seek a forceful national leader to become king. Samuel acceded and chose Saul, son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin, and he took an active role in Saul's coronation.

Samuel later broke with Saul because Saul twice disobeyed him. Samuel then proclaimed that Saul was rejected as king of Israel and that his dynasty would not continue on the throne. The prophet transferred his support to David, selecting him and secretly anointing him king of Israel. Samuel's last days are obscured by the conflict between Saul and David. The Bible makes a brief reference to his death and to his burial at Ramah.

Samuel, though counted among the greatest of the judges, like Moses, is also numbered among the prophets. He was not a warrior but, like Moses, was a hero who rallied the spirit of his people in the midst of oppression, keeping alive their hope and faith.

Further Reading

Although there is no single authoritative biography of Samuel, there are numerous volumes of fiction, making it difficult to distinguish between the historical and the legendary. The best short essays are in Rudolph Kittel, Great Men and Movements in Israel (trans. 1929), and James Fleming, Personalities of the Old Testament (1939). The best treatment of Samuel is, of course, in the Holy Scriptures, with commentaries published by each of the major religious groups. Recommended for the historical background are Max I. Margolis and Alexander Marx, A History of the Jewish People (1944); William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (1940; 2d ed. with new introduction, 1957); Salo Wittmayer Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol. 1 (2d ed. 1952; 2d rev. ed. 1969); and Martin Noth, The History of Israel (trans. 1958; 2d ed. 1960). □

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Samuel

Samuel, two books of the Bible, originally a single work, called First and Second Samuel in modern Bibles, and First and Second Kingdoms in the Septuagint. They are considered part of "Deuteronomistic history," in which the book of Deuteronomy functions as the interpretive key for understanding Hebrew history. The books cover the careers of Samuel, Saul, and David (roughly the 11th cent. BC), as follows: first, Samuel's career and judgeship; second, the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy, with the anointing and subsequent success of Saul, followed by the anointing of David and the bitter rivalry between David and Saul; third, the reign of David, first at Hebron, then at Jerusalem; and, fourth, an appendix of various, unordered materials. Scholars have detected two main strands in the composition of the book, based on divergent attitudes toward the monarchical establishment. In both the books of Samuel and of Kings, the prophets represent the claim of the divine over human kingship. One section is said to be written by a contemporary of David, making it the oldest piece of Bible narrative. The prophet Samuel, fl. 1050 BC, was the last judge of Israel and the first of the prophets after Moses. The circumstances of his birth, childhood, and vocation are told at the beginning of First Samuel. His judgeship was dominated by war with the Philistines, who captured the Ark of the Covenant. In his old age he agreed, at divine request, to the establishment of a king; he thus anointed Saul and remained chief prophet during Saul's reign. In this role he anointed David, and after dying, appeared to Saul at Endor. Samuel became a national hero and eventually a popular figure of Jewish legend.

See studies by P. K. McCarter (1980, 1984), J. Baldwin (1988), and W. Brueggemann (1990); R. Alter, The David Story (1999). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

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Samuel

Samuel Ninth and tenth books of the Old Testament. Through the stories of Samuel, the prophet and judge, and of Saul and David, Israel's first two kings, they describe the transition of Israel from a collection of tribes under separate chiefs to a single nation ruled through a monarchy. Historically, the events belong roughly to the 11th century bc.

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Samuel

Samuel in the Bible, a Hebrew prophet who rallied the Israelites after their defeat by the Philistines and became their ruler; either of two books of the Bible covering the history of ancient Israel from Samuel's birth to the end of the reign of David. It was Samuel who anointed Saul as king of Israel.

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"Samuel." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Samuel

Samuel (c.11th cent. BCE). Israelite prophet and judge. Samuel's activities are to be found in 1 Samuel 1–16. His (traditional) tomb on Mount al-Nabi Samwīl, overlooking Jerusalem, was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.

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Samuel

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